Instructor: Professor Paul Litt

Course Description:

This course provides a concise introduction to the main themes and big events of Canadian political history. It will briefly survey Pre-Confederation political history, but the main focus of the course is the last 150 years. Lectures and readings will introduce students to the people, problems and controversies that have characterized Canadian political history. The course is chronological in structure with pauses to explore in depth the following themes:

  1. Political Leadership: The strategies required to manage effectively a Canadian federation of diverse peoples, regions and interests. How cumulative experience of parliamentary democracy, federal party politics and recurrent election issues have shaped leadership strategies. How the ebbs and flows of different political philosophies, ideological regimes and interest groups have defined political possibilities.
  2. Social Justice: The tensions between the liberal democratic principles of freedom and equality and between these principles and capitalism and the strategies for resolving these tensions, including social reform movements, the rise (and fall) of the welfare state, and regionalism.
  3. Nation Building: The consolidation of transcontinental dominion. Divergent strategies for economic development—imperialism? nationalism? continentalism? Their strengths and weaknesses. When and why the state has intervened in “free” markets and private spheres; what has motivated it to do so. The quest for status, self-interest and a constructive role within the international community of nations. Alternative nation-building projects within Canada that threaten Canadian unity.
  4. National Identity: How Canada has been imagined variously by nationalists in different eras, whether it has a distinctive political culture, and the consequences of such national dreams. . Immigration and assimilation strategies from Anglo-Conformity to Unity in Diversity and their effects on Indigenous-Settler relations, French-English relations, the rights of ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups. Is Canada a project of colonization or decolonization? How did Canada develop from a political culture that privileged white British men to one that congratulates itself for its Charter of Rights, tolerance and multiculturalism?

There will be one three-hour class per week that will consist of lectures, class discussions, small group teamwork, interactive exercises and short written assignments. Evaluation will be based on an essay proposal, a research essay, class participation, completion of in-class assignments and an in-class test and/or exam.